Angel and Buffy stop kissing. He is about to explain what he knows about FE and what he has brought when Caleb rises, knocks him down, and asks Buffy if she's ready to finish this. They fight and she defeats him again, slicing him in two. Angel gets up and she takes the folder he brought as FE mocks Spike. He shows her the pendant he has and says it has a cleansing power and it is meant to be worn by someone ensouled, a champion. He says he doesn't know enough to risk her wearing it. She says he has to leave. She says she needs him to create a second front in case she cannot defeat FE. He says that's one reason, what's the other. He can smell Spike on her. He asks if he's her boyfriend, if she's in love with him. She explains he has a soul. She says he's not her boyfriend but he is in her heart. Angel doesn't think that will end well. She reminds him that their relationship had highlights like a breakup and her killing him. She knows her history with men is bad and she doesn't see a future with Spike but that doesn't matter now. She says she always felt there was something wrong with her because she couldn't make it work. But now she thinks she wasn't supposed to. She says she's cookie dough, unbaked. She has to make it through this and some other stuff and maybe one day she's ready, she's cookies. Then maybe somebody can enjoy warm delicious cookie her. Angel asks if she has any thoughts on who that might be. She says she's not thinking that far ahead, that's kind of her point. He gives her the pendant and leaves. She calls to him and says sometimes she does think that far ahead, but it will be years. He says he's not getting any older.
Buffy returns home to find Dawn and Xander there. Dawn kicks her, lightly, calling her dumbass. Xander says not to look at him, it's a Summers thing, very violent. She tells them she killed Caleb. Downstairs, Spike is hitting the punching bag. Buffy comes down and he tells her he saw her kiss Angel. She says it was just hello. She explains Angel is gone, but Spike isn't mollified. She sees he's drawn a picture of Angel and put it on the punching bag to hit. Spike asks for the pendant. She says it's volatile. He says she'll need someone strong to wear it. She says it's meant to be worn by a champion. He backs off. She gives him the pendant. She tells him Faith still has her room. He says she can't stay there, she can't buy him off with baubles. He says he has his pride. She says she understands, he says she doesn't since the pride thing was a smoke screen. They lie together again.
Buffy gets up and FE appears to her as Caleb. FE says Caleb was its right arm, but it has an army. It mocks the slayerettes saying they don't know the right end of a stake. Fe says when its army over runs the world it will take corporeal form. It says Spike, Faith, and the slayerettes can't help her. That the only way they can have power is if Buffy dies. That there is one slayer and she is alone. That Buffy has lived alone and will die alone. She morphs into Buffy as she says this. Buffy says she's right. Spike awakes shouting in a weird dream. FE vanishes. Buffy says she just realized they are going to win.
Buffy has explained her idea to the gang and asks their opinion. Xander asks if she's kidding. Faith says it's pretty radical. Giles says it flies in the face of what every generation has done in the fight against evil. He says it's brilliant. Willow says it's asking a lot from her, that she'll have to perform a huge act of magic with the potential loss of control. Giles says they'll contact the coven and get their help. Dawn suddenly gets Willow's pierced tongue remark and Buffy quickly sends her to do research. Giles goes too saying there are some people he'll need to dig up literally. Xander and Anya go to get the slayerettes. Buffy gives Willow the scythe.
Buffy is talking to the slayerettes and the others. She tells them tomorrow she is opening the seal, going into the hellmouth, and finishing things. She says none of them have the power she and Faith do so now is the time they make a choice. Cut to Wood and Faith blocking exits in the school and talking about how way out Buffy's idea is. Faith admits she was blowing Wood off the other day. She says after she gets bouncy with a guy she just doesn't need him anymore. He says there are a lot of decent guys in the world. She says a guy looks at her his priorities shift. He says is that because she's so hot and argues he's prettier than her. She disagrees. He says the sex was ok, but not amazing. She gets mad and wants to do it again, he stops her. He makes her a deal. If they make it through this, she has to give him a chance to surprise her.
Willow and Kennedy are in their room and Willow says she wishes Buffy hadn't said what she said about her. Kennedy says she agrees with it. Kennedy says she'll be with Willow to keep her grounded. Willow says she may have to kill her. She says she'll be going past the darkest place she's ever gone. Kennedy says Buffy believes in her. Willow says Buffy's not that bright. Kennedy says she'll make it through it. Giles is looking at a map and asking Xander where he is. The camera pulls back to reveal Andrew in a red cloak and it becomes clear they are playing a role playing game. Giles is losing. The camera pulls back further to reveal Amanda playing and winning. Giles says he wishes he could sleep. Amanda says who could sleep on a night like this. Xander says only the crazy ones and the camera pulls back to reveal a sleeping Anya.
Buffy is sitting outside. Spike is downstairs looking at the pendant. Buffy comes downstairs and they look at each other. Cut to morning a school bus and the gang entering the school. Buffy has the slayerettes, Faith, and Spike go to the basement. Xander advises them to go to the bathroom now. Kennedy goes to Wood's office to set up, it's right above the seal. Wood points out there are three areas the demons might escape to: the atrium, the north hall, and the lounge. Giles and Wood take the lounge, the primary target. Buffy says she wants Xander with Dawn and Dawn goes to the atrium. That leaves Anya and Andrew for the north hall. Andrew starts making a speech, thanking people starting with his brother Tucker. Anya drags him off. Buffy goes to talk to Dawn, but Dawn says no that anything she says will sound like goodbye. Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles are left. They stand in a circle, quietly. Then Buffy asks what they want to do tomorrow. Xander suggests minigolf, Buffy wants to shop for shoes. They all talk, with Giles complaining that he's invisible to them. Buffy, Willow, and Xander walk off talking about a new look for Xander while Giles heads to the lounge saying the Earth is doomed. Willow goes to the office, then Xander to the atrium. Buffy walks alone to the basement. There the slayers and slayerettes cut themselves and drop the blood on the seal, opening it. They enter the hellmouth as Willow, with the scythe, begins her spell. Spike tells Buffy the pendant isn't doing anything. Buffy keeps saying she's not worried. They look down into a pit full of ubervamps. They see the slayerettes and come rushing at them.
Willow begins the spell and power comes from the scythe. Flashback to Buffy talking to the slayerettes saying how the shadow men created the rule of one slayer. She says Willow is more powerful than those men and the rule can be changed, that all the slayerettes can become slayers at once. Back in the present, the slayerettes feel the power. In the flashback, Buffy explains Willow will use the power of the scythe to give all potential slayers her power. Cut to girls around the world suddenly coming into their power. She ends asking the slayerettes if they are ready to be strong. In the present, the ubervamps attack and are met by an army of slayers. Kennedy feels the strength and when she looks at Willow she sees her hair is white and she looks like the woman Buffy met in the tomb. Kennedy says she's a goddess. Willow says Kennedy is a slayer and gives her the scythe to give to Buffy. Kennedy runs out. Willow falls to the floor.
Kennedy arrives with the scythe and tosses it to Buffy. She is mowing down ubervamps. Some flee upstairs. Anya tells Andrew she is terrified. He tells her to think of happy things and names a bunch including bunnies. The bunny mention drives her into a berserker rage. Wood and Giles are attacked by ubervamps as are Andrew and Anya. The pendant starts working on Spike. Buffy is stabbed and falls to the ground. Faith rushes to her and Buffy tells her to hold the line and hands her the scythe. Xander and Dawn are fighting ubervamps and use sunlight to destroy a group of them. Bringers attack and Anya and Wood are stabbed. Faith is attacked and passes the scythe to Rona. FE, as Buffy, appears to Buffy and mocks her. Buffy tells her she wants her out of her face. FE looks scared. Rona tosses Buffy the scythe and she rises and attacks again. The tide turns and the slayers start defeating the ubervamps. The pendant goes into overdrive and a blinding white light emanates from Spike turning the ubervamps to dust. Faith leads the girls out. Buffy rushes to Spike who says he can feel his soul.
There's an earthquake. The girls are upstairs and grab Andrew. Giles and Wood are outside and they are leading everyone onto the bus. Xander is looking for Anya. he can't find her, but we see her lifeless body on the ground. Spike tells Buffy she has to go, that he will do the cleanup. She holds his hand and there is a flame which doesn't burn. She says she loves him. He says she doesn't but he appreciates her saying it. She goes. The girls make it to the bus and it leaves. Buffy runs through the school. Spike, laughing, seems to disintegrate. On the bus, the wounded are being treated. Andrew asks himself why he didn't die. Buffy has made it to the roof and is running for the bus as the building collapses. Dawn sees her from the rear window as she leaps from building to building and finally onto the speeding bus. She looks back as Sunnydale collapses. In the bus, Faith tells them to stop, they are clear. As the bus halts, Buffy leaps off. Dawn comes out and hugs her. Giles looks at the devastation and asks who did this. Buffy says Spike.
We see a giant hole where Sunnydale once was. And as they look, the Sunnydale sign, the last thing standing, falls into it. Xander asks Andrew if he saw and he says she was incredible, she died saving his life. Xander puts his hand on Andrew's shoulder and says that's his girl, always doing the stupid thing. Andrew nods. Faith is talking to a wounding Wood, telling him he will be ok. He asks if they made it and she tells him they won. It looks as if he dies. Faith goes to close his eyes, he coughs and says surprise. Vi comes to tend to him and Faith leaves the bus. Outside, they say the hellmouth is closed and Giles notes there is another in Cleveland. Willow says they changed the world, she can feel all the other slayers. They realize they will have to find them. Giles says yes, since the mall was destroyed there is no hope of going there tomorrow. Dawn says 'we destroyed the mall, I fought on the wrong side.'. Giles says they have a lot of work ahead of them. Faith asks if she could push him in. She just wants to sleep for a week. Dawn agrees. Willow asks what will they do. Faith says since Buffy isn't the only chosen one, she is finally free to do what she wants. Dawn says yes, what will they do. Buffy smiles.
Buffy ends the way it began, with female empowerment. This was the story of a teenage girl whose only dreams were of being head cheerleader who got chosen to fight evil. It was a burden that threatened to destroy her life and the world. But in the final scene, Buffy is smiling. The burden and the gift are shared. The world is saved not because of Buffy but because of the friends she has made and the army she has built. The slayer is no longer alone.
Now I'm not quite sure what happened here. At one point it seems Buffy is mortally wounded, Faith is down, and so is Kennedy. Then suddenly they come up again. I toyed with the idea that this was a final fantasy in the mind of the dying Buffy. But I'm going to dismiss that as too dark even for this show. I think when FE taunts Buffy that final time, it goes too far. FE and Buffy are linked, as FE has said (and I am unhappy that the storyline about that was never dealt with). I think when Buffy needed it, in the hellmouth, she was able to draw upon FE's power and to turn that evil to good. She was able to resurrect herself and the others and begin the scouring of hell. And I'm leaving the endless Christian analogies to others from here on.
I've long argued that Spike would be the hero. That by saving and redeeming Spike, Buffy had created a potent weapon against FE. Ultimately, that was true. Had Spike not come to love her, had he not sought out a soul because of her, had she not given him the strength to withstand the temptation of FE (and I was really happy to see that he shrugged off FE's attempt this week and continued to stand with the slayer even when he thought she had chosen Angel), then he could never have become the champion she needed. Spike's redemption, something that happened over several seasons, was the real victory over evil.
Last week I wrote "Please, when you've just defeated the big bad, don't drop your weapon, don't turn your back to it, chop the baddy up into a million tiny pieces, set them on fire, and grind them into dust. Then bury them down the deepest, darkest hole you can find, fill it with concrete, and top it off with the largest boulder you can move. And even then, it'll likely come back." I was right. Surely Buffy has seen I Know What You Did Last Summer or Scream. The not dead bad guy is a cliche. Yes, they had a little fun with it, but I was bored.
I wasn't bored when Anya died. It was clear this would happen - once a character says he's likely to die and you're not as Andrew did last week you know the opposite will happen. And it's great that she died defending Andrew. This was one of those miracles this show managed to pull off all the time. Two apparently one note characters who seemed unlikely to last an episode let alone a season, were given depth and value and in the end we really cared what happened to them. One of the measures of quality in a show is how interested we are in the minor characters, how fleshed out they are, how three dimensional. Andrew and Anya were amongst the best of these, scaling the heights of character development.
As the characters walk through the high school, leaving Buffy to go to their assignments, we see the original four dwindle to the three and the two and the one. As Buffy goes to the hellmouth, the original concept of the show is visually presented and we see it in reverse. She was a lone girl with a destiny. In Sunnydale she made friends, and then more friends, and then converted enemies. That gave her strength. Now, for a while, they go their separate ways, but they are still together. Although Buffy walks alone, she goes to join with the others and to be joined in battle with those original friends. And she will finally join with an even larger group, all the potentials in the world. FE spoke of creating an army which would outnumber humanity and Buffy turned that concept on its head creating an army to defend humanity. The good that is within Buffy, within her friends, can turn every evil into good. It not only defeats FE, it frustrates it.
The joking about the mall, about what they will do tomorrow, takes us back to the innocent days of season one when Buffy just had to slay vampires and not gods and primordial beings. It took us back to the beginning while at the same time destroying everything. At the end of season 3, Buffy destroyed the school. At the end of season 5, she killed herself. Now she takes out the hellmouth and all of Sunnydale. Xander jokes about how they will have to tell people about the mall and the shops. But what he's really saying is how they will have to tell people how evil was stopped, at least for a moment.
FE told Buffy that the slayerettes could not have power as long as Buffy lived. That the slayer is always alone. However, this isn't quite true. There are two slayers: Buffy and Faith. Buffy died in season one at the hands of the master leading to Kendra who died in season two leading to Faith. So two slayers exist at the same time. It's at this point that Buffy realizes she can win. She realizes that what she has to do recreate what happened to create Kendra/Faith. Way back in The Gift, Spike explained why it is always about blood. Buffy remembers that and the slayers and slayerettes use their blood to enter the hellmouth. But they also use that blood to unite themselves. The ritual has made them blood sisters. This coupled with Willow's spell causes them to share not just the power (all potential slayers now share that), but also their life forces. I think that is key, that it isn't until Buffy is stabbed and de facto dies that the slayerettes come fully into their power. It's at that point that they seem overwhelmed and then as Buffy miraculously recovers they regain their power and more. Her mystical slayer power flows to them, is multiplied by them, and then flows back into her resurrecting her (and it's a nice bit of parallelism that the death which started the additional slayers was also in the hellmouth) and the injured slayerettes who are now true slayers. There was a confluence of mystical events. The sharing of blood, the power of the scythe, the spell of Willow, and the pendant acting on Spike. Her death also weakens FE, who we know from Beljoxa's Eye is only able to assume such power and break the balance because of Buffy's resurrection. And I think that when FE confronts her, taunts her, she leads to her own undoing. That not only gives Buffy the impetus to stand, but I think she also mystically draws power from FE, the power FE gained when Buffy was resurrected. And that power is spread to the other slayers making them even more powerful. At the same time, the pendant goes into overdrive, signalling the end for FE. I think even more power is transferred to her when she holds Spike's mystically burning hand and that is why she suddenly has the energy, despite being almost killed, to run after and catch the bus.
I've heard some people complain that although the show is about female empowerment, in the end a man saves the day. These people miss the point. Everything that happens to defeat FE happens because of the decisions Buffy made. The decision to befriend Willow way back in season one episode one when she was a helpless geek and not a super powerful witch. The decision to let Spike live. The strength to make Spike love her enough to get a soul and sacrifice himself for good. The strength to redeem Andrew and Anya and make them ready to die to protect humanity. All of this happens because of Buffy, because of her actions and decisions over the years which led her to build a community which ultimately was the army she needed to defeat FE.
The final words are Dawn asking Buffy what do they do now. Buffy just smiles, because the answer is whatever they want. She's free, free of being 'the' slayer. But she isn't just free because of Willow's spell. She's free because of the realization she had earlier when she talks about being cookie dough. Buffy has long felt her failures in relationships were her fault and that being the slayer somehow doomed her. While the burden of the slayer was heavy, the real problem was that she was still young, still starting life. She took up her role at 16 and never had a chance to be a girl and a young woman and have life. She isn't formed yet and until she is she can't make those decisions. Now that she understands that, she can be less self critical. She blames herself less for the failures because the time for her success, the time for her to be serious, hasn't come yet. In the early years of the series Buffy often complained about not having a normal life with dates and cheerleading and proms. She wanted those things and fought for them, but the realities of her calling stopped her from having them. Understanding that gave her the freedom to give up her burden, to solve the riddle of FE, to choose life.
I've seen a number of people complain that the ubervamps were too easily defeated by the nonslayers when they fled upstairs into the school. I think a number of factors weakened the ubervamps (and perhaps this also explains why the bringers actually seem to have done more damage above ground). I think a combination of being driven out of the hellmouth during the day, of having faced the power of the scythe and of the pendant, and of FE being under serious attack drains the ubervamp's power. Much in the way the power of the slayers is magnified mystically by the ritual sharing of blood and the scythe and pendant (not to mention the death and resurrection of Buffy) so do all those things weaken the ubervamps to the state where mere humans can confront them. Buffy's victory is not only in creating an army of slayers, but in weakening this great evil to the point that even non slayers who are brave enough can defeat it.
So what does it mean when Buffy says she loves Spike and he says she doesn't. As always, I'm reminded of Intervention, when Spike risks his life to save Buffy from pain. That's the first time Buffy sees something real in Spike, something beyond just desire and boredom and the front he wears to protect him from the pain of the world. As they hold hands and the fire passes between them and Spike feels his soul and recognizes his duty, another real thing happens. The fake front falls away (literally in a few moments) and we see the real Spike. The Spike who can love enough to die for it. Spike said that the one real thing in the world to him was Buffy, what she was, what she stood for. In Spike, Buffy sees the thing she loves - the honesty, the caring, the sacrifice. She says what she feels. But Spike understands that love is a complicated thing and Buffy's outpouring of emotion isn't the kind of love we usually mean when we say that. Not the kind of love Spike was seeking for most of the last three seasons. But he doesn't need it anymore. He's found something spiritual, through Buffy and in Buffy. And he has hope for the future. Just as Angel does. Both men leave Buffy to do their duty. Angel to create the second front, Spike to clean up the hellmouth. Both men know she cannot love them yet, because she hasn't learnt to love herself yet. But they both have hope for the future. Spike says he wants to see how it ends. I don't think he's just talking about the destruction of FE.
So how does Spike, who seems to have died, end up on Angel next season. Well, I don't know for sure that will happen, but here are some theories. One, in To Shanshu in LA, we learnt of a prophecy saying the vampire with a soul will fight in the apocalypse and then be given life again. That could be Spike and he may be reincarnated as a human and then go to LA. Two, Angel and the others may need Spike's help and will do a spell to reincarnate him as was done with Darla. Three, the pendant has additional magical properties, is recovered, and we discover Spike's essence has been stored in it safely all this time and he just has to be released. Four, when Spike and Buffy held hands, they did a Spock/McCoy type thing and his essence is actually stored inside Buffy. I can see Andrew or Xander figuring this out and a few of the Buffy characters guest on Angel in the episode where Spike is resurrected from Buffy.
Given that this was the series finale, I guess I should spend some time rating it as such. I was glad to see it avoided the obvious - like having a jealous Spike side with FE and abandon Buffy only to ultimately return to her side. I also think the finale set up a possible spin off series or film effectively. I had thought that unlikely and was impressed with how Whedon dealt with the problem. By creating a world fill of slayers, he makes it possible to have a film or series with any or none of the existing characters. And the conclusion isn't a big cheat, it fits in well enough with the underlying themes of the series. Plus, we actually did get someone dying and I always like the episodes where someone dies. So on the scale of series finales it rates pretty high. Certainly better than any Trek series (where the finale is often the worst episode of the series) and far better than the awful X-Files conclusion. Maybe not as good as the original The Fugitive. But the truth is I can't think of any other dramas that went out as strongly. Over 7 seasons this show has maintained a stunningly high level of quality.
Some quick final thoughts. I'm glad Angel wasn't there for the final battle. It would have detracted. I've argued that Spike is better than any of the other men in Buffy's life because they all left and he stayed, despite how hard it was for him. He stays twice here: once when he sees Buffy with Angel and refuses to give in to the temptation for jealousy and anger and again when he refuses to leave the hellmouth until the job is done. It's a lovely scene where Spike tells Buffy the pride thing was a smoke screen and he doesn't know what he would have done if she'd gone upstairs and they both smile and laugh. I find it hard to believe Faith didn't realize Wood was just messing with her, both in the furniture moving scene and later on the bus. But maybe this is a sign of Faith become softer and more Buffylike. The Willow/Kennedy grounded conversation reminds us of the kite/string conversation in Touched. Willow says she has to go beyond the darkest place. She does, to the light. The Buffy/Spike dialogue about her loving him and his saying she doesn't but it was nice of her to say so is reminiscent of the dialogue between Wesley and Lilah in Home when he tries to save her from damnation and fails and she says she appreciates his trying. Spike is a terrible artist, while Angel is really very good (we've seen his art work on Angel from time to time). Yet another difference between the two. In a week or two, I'll be posting a series wrap up plus my picks for the best and worse Buffy episodes ever. So if you're a regular reader of these reviews (and I appreciate all the email), keep checking here.
Lines of the week:
"I'm getting the brush off for captain peroxide." - Angel on how he feels.
"He is in my heart." - Buffy on Spike.
"I'm cookie dough. I'm not done baking." - Buffy on needing to grow up before she decides what to do with her life.
"Sometimes is something." - Angel accepting what solace there is.
"I ain't getting any older." - Angel making a virtue of necessity.
"If you get killed, I'm telling." - Buffy being a sister.
"Sometimes I shouldn't say words." - Xander on being inappropriate.
"Most people don't use their tongues to say hello." - Spike a little tongue tied.
"He wears lifts, you know." - Spike probably telling the truth about Angel.
"There could be oil of some kind involved." - Buffy with a little wrestling fantasy.
"I've been called a lot of things in my time." - Spike pleased.
"The whole having my pride thing was just a smokescreen." - Spike letting Buffy know he still loves her.
"I'm drowning in footwear. Weird dream." - Spike possibly with a metaphorical soul/sole reference.
"We're gonna win." - Buffy realizing FE talks way too much.
"I think it's bloody brilliant." - Giles accepting that Buffy knows what she's doing.
"Not in a nice wholesome my girlfriend has a pierced tongue kind of way." - Willow with a little too much information for the gang.
"What, am I insensitive." - Anya with a question you really don't want to answer.
"Sweet girl, not that bright." - Willow on Buffy.
"Only the crazy ones." - Xander on Anya.
"Don't be afraid to use him as a human shield." - Xander on the value of Andrew to Anya.
"The Earth is definitely doomed." - Giles on young people nowadays.
"This woman is more powerful than all of them combined." - Buffy on Willow.
"Are you ready to be strong?" - Buffy with the choice the slayerettes must make.
"That was nifty." - Willow on her greatest act of magic.
"I just figured you'd be terrified and I'd be sarcastic about it." - Anya on how she imagined things would be.
"I gotta do this." - Spike on his destiny.
"I love you." - Buffy saying what she feels.
"No you don't. But thanks for saying it." - Spike understanding Buffy is cookie dough.
"Why didn't I die?" - Andrew possibly being a hero for the first time.
"Spike." - Buffy letting Giles know a champion was born.
"She died saving my life." - Andrew telling Xander.
"That's my girl, always doing the stupid thing." - Xander thanking Andrew for telling him.
"There is another one in Cleveland." - Giles spoiling the moment,
"We destroyed the mall, I fought on the wrong side." - Dawn being true to herself.
"All those shops gone. The Gap, Starbucks, Toys 'R Us. Who will remember all those landmarks unless we tell the world about them." - Xander on the task lying ahead.
"What are we gonna do now?" - Dawn asking Buffy a question she wants to hear.Got a comment? Send me mail.
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